County set for £40 tax rise
By Ted JeoryCOUNCILLORS have taken the next step towards setting one of their lowest council tax rises at just £40. Essex County Council's cabinet agreed yesterday to increase its council tax bills in the next financial year by 4.
By Ted Jeory
COUNCILLORS have taken the next step towards setting one of their lowest council tax rises at just £40.
Essex County Council's cabinet agreed yesterday to increase its council tax bills in the next financial year by 4.7% - which will see the average band D households paying £891, up from £851.
However, the final bills are likely to be in the region of £1,200 once the charges from district or borough councils, the police authority and parish or town councils are added.
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The county council has been able to keep the tax rise to a minimum thanks to a higher-than-expected Government grant and a wide-ranging spending review, which has led to 100 job cuts.
Council leader, Lord Hanningfield, said: “We hope that this is the first of many years of low tax rises, but that of course is dependent on the Government.
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“I'm aware of people's resentment for high council taxes, but they need to understand how little control we have over it because we are legally obliged to provide many services.
“That we are able to bring in a much lower rise in council tax this year is the result of many months of careful planning for the new budget.
“This has meant some difficult decisions with very tight budgeting at County Hall and setting new priorities for council spending.”
But Liberal Democrat finance spokesman, Tom Smith-Hughes, said: “Whilst the 4.7% increase is a welcome relief after the 16.7% rise last year, it is still twice the rate of inflation and higher than the increase pensioners and many people will see in their incomes.
“Liberal Democrats believe that the council tax system should be scrapped and replaced by a system based on the ability to pay.”
Paul Sztumpf, leader of the Labour group, said a 4.7% rise was good news for resaidents.
“The Labour Government has given a very generous grant settlement, which has been translated into this low tax increase,” he added.
The full council will discuss the cabinet's recommended tax rise on February 17.